Fred Pentland: Missionary for the ‘English Way’

Jul 24, 2020

Life Stories

Fred Pentland


Born in Wolverhampton in 1883, Fred Pentland played for Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough. He played five times for England in 1909. He retired in 1914 and went to Berlin as coach of the Germany Olympic Games team; but the First World War began and he was sent to an internment camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin. Other English footballers were interned there, including his former team-mate Steve Bloomer. They organised many football matches for the prisoners.

Coaching Missionary

In 1919 Pentland was hired by AS Strasbourg; he then coached the France team at the 1920 Olympics. Afterwards, he went to Spain, where he was a successful coach with Racing Santander, Atletico Madrid and, above all, Athletic Bilbao. Fred’s second spell at Bilbao from 1929 was the peak of his coaching career, winning two La Liga titles in 1930 and 1931, and the Copa del Rey four years running. He left Spain in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War began. He died in 1962.


Fred Pentland remains one of the great names in the history of Athletic Bilbao. The club has maintained strong links with the “English style” ever since. Howard Kendall, championship-winning manager of Everton in the 1980s, managed at Bilbao from 1987 to 1989.

Thinking points

Educators could look at the life story of Fred Pentland and work with young people to consider these questions:

  1. How could football tactics be appreciated as part of a history of ideas?
  2. What does Fred Pentland’s life tell us about the role of migration in the early 20th century?

Find out more

Find out more about his career, life and impact on Mr Pentland, a website dedicated to his life. You can also read more about the broader history of the “Iconic Bilbao Years” on These Football Times.


England international footballer Frederick Beaconsfield Pentland

England international footballer Frederick Beaconsfield Pentland.

Life Story

Fred Pentland coached Athletic Bilbao from 1929 to 1936. His story is one of migration.


Article Tags:   20th century  |   integration  |   migration

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